November is always an opportunity to focus on “We Ride For Those Who Can’t.” It’s an opportunity for all riders and supporters to reflect on the sacrifices made by veterans by attending ceremonies on Veterans Day in your town or city. It’s also a time for us to remember those who served during wartime and other eras.
In past years I have tried to honor folks from WW2, Korea, Vietnam and more current conflicts in our events at Ontario and in these messages. This November I would like to honor PFC Carl J. Klemme USMC.
PFC Klemme enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on April 17, 1917 in Denver, Col. Carl Klemme was 18 years old and was on his way to Europe as the United States committed to enter World War I. Our nation entered this stalemated trench war three years after it began in 1914—as the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) commanded by Gen. John “Blackjack” Pershing USA. Although Carl Klemme likely never met Gen. Pershing, he would see this war from a very different perspective.
After completing USMC basic training, PFC Klemme began his foreign service in France Aug., 22, 1917. Klemme participated in “active operations against the enemy,” Mar. 15-May 13, 1918 in the Toulon Sector, Verdun, France. From May 31-June 5,1918 he saw combat in the Aisne Defensive. Then from June 6-17,1918 the 5th Marine Regiment moved into the Chateau Thierry Sector and engaged the enemy in an unorthodox night attack in their trenches with bayonets fixed.
This victory was won at a place known as Belleau Wood, assuring Paris was safe, and where the Germans gave the Marines their nickname “Teufel Hunden” or “Devil Dogs.” Gen. Pershing later said, “The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle.”
The 5th Marine Regiment and PFC Klemme then cleared the sector of German soldiers making way for Gen. Pershing’s operation known as the St. Mihiel Offensive conducted Sept. 19-22, 1918. PFC Klemme and his fellow Marines then found themselves at the line of departure in the Meuse-Argonne Sector on Oct. 1, 1918. After several days of heavy combat PFC Klemme was wounded in action on Oct. 4, 1918 and was forced off the battlefield only to recover and serve out his foreign service as part of the Army of Occupation in Germany.
PFC Klemme was Honorably Discharged from the Marines on July 18, 1919 and awarded the “recognized wound chevron” (Purple Hearts were not awarded until 1932 and the recognized wound chevron was later exchanged for the Purple Heart), the Good Conduct Medal, WWI Victory Medal, and the German Occupation Medal. Moreover, an additional honor was awarded to the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments after WWI ended and was presented by the French government to these Marine regiments after having earned the Croix de Guerre with palm leaf three times during WWI.
PFC Klemme did not receive this award after he was discharged. The award is a green fourragere (braided cords) worn on the left shoulder that was permanent for anyone who fought in these campaigns and temporary for others who joined the units in the future.
Dave, who serves as RFTW BOD chairman and Central Route road guard, showed the documents below to Commanding Officer Col. Rob Weiler of the 5th Marine Regiment who said he was delighted to see this history and will submit the appropriate paper work to award Dave’s father the fourragere.
During the formation, Col. Weiler held up the documents, explaining, “This Marine’s father served at Belleau Wood in WWI and these historical documents are why you all are being awarded fourrageres today.”
Please participate this Veteran’s Day—“To promote healing among ALL veterans and their families and friends, to call for a full accounting of Prisoners Of War and those Missing In Action, to honor the memory of those Killed In Action, from all wars, and to support our military personnel all of the world.”
Oh, and by the way, the 2020 planning process is progressing very well! However, there are some changes on each of the routes. I urge you all to read the monthly route coordinators’ messages found in the Route Hub so you are informed. I would like to urge everyone who is thinking about riding with RFTW 2020 to register early so route coordinators can get a feel for the numbers they will have in 2020. This is a safety issue, Folks, as well as an administrative one. If you are just thinking about riding with us but maybe not completely sure, you can register without paying. However, it is cheaper to pay when you register and we need early numbers to safely plan. Thank you and remember this is One Mission – Four Routes.
Is it May yet?
Les “Easy” Williams
Run For The Wall Board of Directors
P.S. According to sources reported by Wikipedia, the Army’s 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division AEF was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palm three times, and awarded the French fourragere for service during WWI campaigns at Chateau Thierry, Aisne-Marne and Meuse-Argonne…. In total, 434 AEF officers and men were certified to wear the French fourragere as an individual decoration.